Maybe you’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of Eric Motley, it wasn’t a village, but a town.
Motley chronicles his upbringing in his book “Madison Park: A Place of Hope.” He tells his story of his journey from a small town on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama all the way to the White House. From circumstances that seem unlikely and from people who gave far more of themselves than most people might be expected to give, Motley shows how many roots have fed into the tree of his life.
Motley starts out as a child born out of wedlock and raised by his grandparents. He is born into a town which he describes as, “a close-knit cocoon of several hundred self-reliant descendants of former slaves.” Madison Park, as he describes it, seems either like a dream come true or a creepy version of Mayberry, or maybe both. Everyone knows everyone and people look out for each other. When someone doesn’t have something, others rally around to provide. Needs are met over and over with no expectation of repayment. It’s a story that we may have heard many times played out in fairy tales, but for Motley, it’s all true and he has been the recipient of the kindness, generosity, and grace of an entire town.
Eric Motley was given the moniker D.U.K. at an early age, the designated university kid. He would be given opportunities that his parents and so many others in his town had never had. While vicarious living can be dangerous at times, the kind of vicarious living that we see in the lives of the residents of Madison Park as they pour into Eric Motley is inspirational and uplifting.
Experiences and all the learning that goes along with them, that’s what Eric Motley gained in Madison Park. Being babysit for years by Mrs. Hattie Mae Sherman, also known as Mama Sherman, who operated the Washerteria. Being helped and supported by Aunt Shine, who rose in church to call upon the townspeople to rally around young Eric when he had been moved from the Rabbits to the Turtles reading group while in first grade. The town came out in droves with books, encyclopedias, magazines, and a whole array of reading materials that would help Eric move along in his reading. Picking blackberries for Mrs. Beulah Byrd. And on and on the stories go.
Madison Park implanted itself on the person of Eric Motley. As he attended Samford University and continued on to receive degrees from St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Motley would always find a home back in Madison Park. Though the years have changed him and he has grown and learned, the place always seemed sacred to him. After both of his grandparents, his caregivers, had died and been buried, the townspeople had reserved the burial plot next to them so that Motley might eventually be laid to rest alongside them, assuring that the town would always be his home.
Throughout his story, Motley is always humble, winsome, and charming. He never lets the degrees which he’s accumulated go before him but always speaks of his own merit. He never ceases to mention and remember all who have poured into him, knowing that his life is a testimony to not only the lives of his grandparents who raised him, but of a town who loved him, was proud of him, and wanted nothing more than to see him succeed.
Motley understands the privilege that he’s received. He writes, “Invariably the will of God mysteriously unfolds just as it should.” “Madison Park” is the story of the mysterious will of God unfolding in the life of a little boy who has gone on to fulfill the dreams of an entire town. I don’t expect that we’ve heard the last from Eric Motley. If you want to be inspired, to feel good, and to know and see the power of invested lives, “Madison Park” is a book that will give you all that and more.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)